Book Review of Major and Mrs. Holt’s Definitive Battlefield Guide to the D-Day Normandy Landing Beaches (75th Anniversary Edition with GPS References). Pen & Sword Books.
Major and Mrs. Holt’s battlefield guide earns its of definitive. The guidebook covers six separate itineraries with mileage and time estimates, over 400 colored photographs and 21 itinerary maps and diagrams, and a comprehensive assortment of sidebar information that covers WW2 personalities, operational plans, and invasion formations. Also included is an excellent supplemental map covering the major battlefield locations and points of interest along with the modern road network to aid in navigation throughout the area.
The word “comprehensive” does not begin to describe Major and Mrs. Holt’s Definitive Battlefield Guide to the D-Day Normandy Landing Beaches. The Holts have gifted Normandy battlefield tourists with an outstanding resource that is part operational history, part travelogue, and wholly engrossing. The number of itineraries ensures that visitors can tailor their trips to ensure they hit their favorites stops, and the amount of background information provided eliminates the need for bringing along supplemental maps or books. While densely packed with information and accompanying illustrations, the book easily carried in hand or backpack, or stored in a car’s glove box.
The photographs, maps and diagrams are easily the most eye-catching aspects of the book. It is so beautifully illustrated that I spent a significant amount of time paging through the guide and admiring the colored pictures and detailed maps before turning to the text. The writing lives up to the high expectations set by the guide’s graphics. The Holt’s provide site summaries, historical context and personality summaries that are descriptive, yet tightly edited allowing them to present readers with a great deal of information regarding D-Day and the subsequent Normandy campaign. Tourists who wish only for a brief overview will find their expectations quickly met, while those who seek greater detail need only read on to have their curriosity satisfied.
The Holt’s itineraries are each focus on a specific geographic area of the Normandy battle area. Each of the five invasion beaches (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Juno) merits its own itinerary. The sixth itinerary focuses on the Britsh airborne operations and seizure of Pegasus Bridge on the eastern side of the Normandy lodgement. They supplement the beach intineraries with stops that focus on shaping and enabling operations that occurred such as American airborne operations behind Utah Beach, the Rangers’ exploits at Ponte du Hoc in the vicinity of Omaha, or the Allied Commando Operations at Sword. Each itinerary begins with a brief discussion of the D-Day plan for what was to take place in that sector, followed by a disucssion of how the operation actually unfolded. These take up only one or two pages; the remaining pages being dedicated tour stops. The Holts give detailed directions, supplemented with GPS coordinates which ensure that travllers will be able to navigate throughout Normandy with minimal difficulty. The photographs and maps enhance the itineraties as they accompany the text and provide excellent context. I found that I enjoyed the illustrations twice as much the second time as I read the accompanying descriptions. Side bars containing memories of D-Day participants who shared their stories with the Holts supplement each itinerary, and bring an immediacy to the events that occurred so long past.
Major and Mrs. Holt’s Definitive Battlefield Guide to the D-Day Normandy Landing Beaches is brilliantly done. The level of detail allows visitors to tailor their trips to the appropriate level of detail to match their interests. The maps are located at appropriate sections of the guide, which allows the reader to follow the narrative of the action without having to hunt for the appropriate map elsewhere in the text. The Holts include information about places to stay, eat and various ways to travel, to include by bike, train and road. They even provide information on how to coordinate guided tours for those who do not wish to design their own. If you are planning a visit to Normandy and only wish to bring one guidebook, you cannot go wrong with this one. It earns the title of definitive.